Relatedly, we can't really compare our house prices with those in other countries because the simplest consistent comparison, price per square foot or square metre, is not available to us. This matters to people who make housing policy, but it also matters to people thinking of moving house between different countries.
There is a solution in sight, however. The law requires an Energy Performance Certificate to be produced for every house that is sold or rented out. An EPC is drawn up by an expert after looking over the house, and captures key information about the energy efficiency of the house. But it also captures other information, notably the type of house, its size in square metres, and its exact address. There are now about 7 million domestic EPCs, all held on a single register and as of today searchable by address. I just looked up the EPC for a house down the road from me, which is the same kind of Victorian mid-terrace as I share with friends. It pretty much confirms what I thought, which is that our house retains heat about as well as a sieve.
To get back to my point though, what this means is that we've got a huge and growing database of home sizes. And because the Land Registry has recently started releasing its data on house prices, again with the exact address provided, it should be possible to link the two datasets together to calculate the average price per square metre in different parts of the country, for new as well as old houses. More sophisticated analysis could also reveal the extent people are willing to pay for for more energy efficient homes.
I don't know whether anyone in government is working on this. As far as I can see they're not, and that wouldn't surprise me as the key department (Communities and Local Government) is these days shedding statisticians and generally doing less analytical work.
But it should be possible for academics and laypeople to analyse the data in this way. The problem is that the government has decided that EPC data should only be available in bulk to certain organisations and only if they are prepared to stump up the money for it. The costs range from 1p to 10p per record depending on how much detail you want, but in any case this quickly mounts up if you want any kind of comprehensive database at local or regional level.
The government says these prices are to cover the costs of disseminating the data. Maybe that's fair enough and maybe it isn't, but it does mean that the kind of useful analysis I've described above can't be performed by anyone outside central government. So if the CLG are determined to ration access to the EPC data by price I think it should really be doing its own analysis and making the most of this data on our behalf.